Dear Motorist Person,
In your haste the other afternoon to pass me as I was riding my bicycle, you came fairly close to hurting or killing someone. You see, my mom always told me, “Don't start a pass you can't finish.” She was not discussing driving, but the point was well-taken.
You might recall that, at the time you chose to begin your pass, there was a hill just ahead of us that hid the oncoming car from your view, but not mine since I was forty feet in front of you. I imagine that you chose to go completely across into the other lane on this skinny country road in order to provide sufficient room to pass me, which in some circumstances could be quite appropriate and desirable, but not in this case. Your haste to pass me created a situation where, had I not intervened, was going to either
cause you to have a head-on collision with the unseen oncoming car (perhaps killing one or both of you) force the oncoming car off the road into the trees (perhaps killing her), lead to you swerving to the right in order to avoid the oncoming vehicle (crashing into and possibly killing me).
I hope you did not mind that I decided to quickly move into the center of the roadway to prevent you from passing me and that my frantic waving and yelling “NO!” did not alarm you to a large degree. Fortunately for all of us, you chose to take my actions seriously and pull back into line behind my bike. Also pleasing was the fact that you then waited ten seconds for me to signal “clear” and wave you on so that you could pass safely. Not as pleasing was the one-finger salute that followed, despite the likely crash that my attentiveness prevented. A “thank-you” would have been more appropriate. I imagine it was the last token of affection displayed when one realizes that he/she has done wrong and needs to proclaim victory and withdraw.
I see this type of situation often enough. With decades of bicycling experience and a fine mirror mounted on my helmet, I can usually spot a potentially dangerous situation brewing and take action in time to avoid the danger. Motorists will unsafely pass bicyclists for various reasons, some of which are: (a) impatience, (b) incompetence, (c) anger, (d) inattention and (e) misjudging the speed of the bicyclist. On every bicycle is a human being such as myself. A motorist's haste to more quickly reach his/her destination does not override the rules of the road, nor the courtesy that we should extend to each other, nor is sufficient reason to put another person's life in danger.
Sometimes I hear the common motorist rant, “He was riding in the middle of the lane!” There is often a reason for this. If the lane is too narrow for a motor vehicle and bicyclist to safely share (think Rosemont Avenue or 7th Street), the bicyclist should move far enough to the left to dissuade the motorist from passing in the same lane. If the bicyclist does not move left, the motorist will be tempted to try to squeeze past the bicyclist, often passing within a few inches, setting up a dangerous situation. In 2012 it became law in Maryland that a motorist must pass a bicyclist with at least three feet of clearance space.
So – please, my motorist friends – be patient and pass safely.
Another situation that a bicyclist must be careful to avoid is called the “right hook.” This is when a motorist passes the bicyclist and then immediately executes a right-hand turn in front of hm/her, causing the bicyclist to (a) get pushed off the road, (b) get crushed underneath a tire or (c) if fortunate, quickly slam on the brakes in order to avoid a collision. To avoid the situation, I will move into the center or center-left of the lane as I approach an intersection where there is a potential for a trailing car to perform a right turn. This persuades the motorist to execute the correct and safe maneuver of remaining behind the bicyclist and turning right behind him/her instead of in front.
The following link shows how these situations can be avoided under the caption “How to Not Get Hit By Cars”: http://www.bicyclesafe.com/ There are ten situations covered here, accompanied by some very good advice on how to ride safely in traffic. Every bicyclist and motorist should read this web page. We would all be safer as a result.
See you out there. And always listen to your mother. She also requested that we all use our turn signals.